Monday, January 16, 2017

Rutiliated Quartz

Another name for this mineral is "Venus hair stone".  You can see why - the hair-like rutile crystals (which can be brown, gold, or red) are easy to see in this quartz medium.  Quartz has a hardness of 7 while rutile (basically titanium oxide) has a hardness of 6.  It's very difficult to get a good polish on this type of stone without pitting.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Library Display

I'd hoped the antique Christmas ornament display would stay in the library display case until the end of January but the person who put them in asked if she could take them out the first week in January.  Understandable enough since she wanted to pack them away w/ the rest of her holiday decorations.  Meant I had to think fast about a new display.  My neighbor's cribbage playing friend - the one who came along to help pull me out of the ditch this week - has an extensive glass collection.  He thought a collection of pitchers would be nice and the librarian and I were happy w/ whatever he was comfortable loaning us for a few months. I always offer to help do a display installation but my aid is rarely requested.  People have their own ideas about the best way to show off their collections. Must admit that I rather enjoy seeing how they configure their articles as much as I enjoy the articles themselves.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

In the ditch

 I went into the ditch this week.  I've done that twice before - once nearly 10 years ago in my own driveway and again about 40 years ago when I was on my way to a county seat north of here to do title searching for the company where I worked.  I'd better be more careful since it's happening to me more often.

The roads hadn't yet been plowed. It was snowing and blowing snow.  There isn't anything near the banked curve to show where the edges are and I misjudged and got hung up on the inside of the corner.  Could have called the tow guy but opted instead for my neighbor (the curve is right by his house) since I thought he'd be quicker.  He wasn't at home but in town having a morning game of cribbage w/ a friend.  Not a problem, soon both he and his friend were there.  My car has a ball hitch and he easily pulled me out w/ his truck and I was on my way again.  Haven't figured out how to thank my neighbor and his friend.  At the moment all I've done for them was give them a story to tell.  I know because when I went in to volunteer at the library, everyone there had already heard the tale. (ha)

These pictures aren't from when I went into the ditch but from someone who did it the day before.

Friday, January 13, 2017

What is it?

This is one of my favorites.  A non-crystalline amorphous solid.  Perfectly clear w/ a blue/green tint.  Fairly indestructible.  Dirt cheap.  I like to place it around the house since it's so pretty when light shines through it.

What is it? The same glass used in the tinted portion of automobile windshields.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


I could tell you about the relationship between tiger's-eye, hawk's-eye, and asbestos but I'll save that discussion for later when the rock (oops) MINERAL of the day is tiger iron.  I just got back from the town caucus.  Don't think "Iowa caucus".  A caucus in my state is just the process the towns go through to get nominations for the local non-partisan offices.  I was contacted a couple of weeks ago and asked if I'd be willing to run the caucus.  The person running the caucus can't be up for any of the offices and it's real helpful if that person is already familiar w/ the process.  I've been "it" ever since the former "it" person died.  The meeting started at 7:00 p.m. and I was turning in my driveway by 7:06.  I'd like to say it was my management skills but the speed of the caucus was more due to all of the current officers running unopposed and only six people showing up for the meeting.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Blue Jade

I specifically asked when I was considering buying this specimen if the color had been altered.  The color of some rocks can be changed by heating them, putting them in a chemical bath, etc. I was assured by a reputable dealer that this color was the real deal.  There are two different types of stones that share the name "jade".  One is nephrite and the other jadeite.  Blue Jade is a form of jadeite (hardness 6.5 - 7).  By the way, my neighbor who is a real rock hound informed me that rock hounds never call a rock "a rock", it's a mineral.  So I'll try to be better in my nominclature but I may lapse until it becomes ingrained (so to speak).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Pretty much every mineral collection includes a fluorite example.  It's a common, beautiful, and is second only to quartz in popularity.  Fluorite fractures (called cleavage) on four planes so this octahedron shape is a common form for the mineral.  Pure fluorite is clear but, because of impurities, it has a large color range.  In addition, a fluorite specimen might have a different color under shortwave UV light than longwave UV light, and phosphorescence in yet a different color.  Some crystals will thermoluminescence too (means when it's heated it will glow). While fluorite has many industrial uses, it's hardness is only 4.  You'll see it in those mineral collections as a crystal like this or even faceted but rarely used as a gemstone.

Monday, January 09, 2017


This is another of the rock types recently discovered. It was first described in the 1940's but didn't become popular until 1978.  It, like lapis lazuli, is valued because of it's beautiful color.  I've got two examples - one w/ the typical swirling pattern and one w/ a pearl-like luster. It's hardness is 4.5 to 5.   Charoite was created by limestone undergoing contact metamorphism (transformation through heat, pressure, and infusion of other chemicals). While that process is a common geological phenomena, whatever occurred to specifically make charoite happened in only one location - Siberia, Russia near the Chary river.  Another reason this rock is highly prized - there is a limited supply that could eventually be mined out.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Graduating Class of 1937

 I was given a 1937 high school yearbook for the local school and donated it to the library.  They were happy to have it.  Recently, the librarian said, a woman had been in doing a genealogy search but the oldest yearbook we had was from the 40's and she needed to go back further in her search.  Now that I'm also a member of the historical society in town I did consider that but they are only open during the summer months and I thought the book would be more accessible in the library. My family was well represented in the graduating class - my father Neil, my uncle Herbert, and my aunt June are all pictured.

Petrified Wood

Petrified wood is a fossil in 3-D.  I don't usually think about it that way.  Many of the fossils we find are the molds or imprints left by animals or plants.  Petrified wood like petrified bones has everything down to the cell structure replaced by minerals.  In the example shown, carbon has replaced the wood so it has a brown color.  If the mineral was cobalt the petrified wood would be green/blue or if the mineral was manganese the color would be pink/orange.  A laboratory in Washington made artificial petrified wood by taking pine, soaking it in an acid bath for 2 days, then in a silica solution for 2 days, then cooked it at 1400 degrees C in an argon atmosphere for 2 hours.  Interesting but is it really worth it?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Orange Calcite

Pure calcite is clear in color.  This orange calcite sample is  colored because it's got iron impurities. Calcite is very common.  It's the main constituent of reefs, cave formations, limestone, and marble.  It's uses vary from an agricultural soil treatment to the manufacture of steel, cement, and glass.  It's soft enough (hardness level of only 3) to be used as an abrasive for most other rocks and metal. It's the same stuff in Michelangelo's Pieta and the antacid you take for heartburn.  Plus - get this - in all experiments to make a cloak of invisibility (there are groups trying to do this: University of California - Berkeley among others) calcite is an important ingredient.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017


Flint is a type of sedimentary rock caused by diagenesis (chemical change) but doesn't undergo enough heat or compression to morph into a metamorphic rock.  This was the rock of choice by Stone Age tool makers since it would splinter into sharp flakes when hit.  Later it gave it's name to the flintlock gun which fired when steel would hit a flint edge.  The resulting sparks ignited the gun powder.   It's also been used for building construction since it weathers well.  It has a hardness of 7. This picture is an example of striped flint.  Beautiful stuff.  One thing about flint is,while you can start a fire w/ it, the rock doesn't like being tossed in a fire (or any excessive heat).  It has a tendency to explode.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Lapis Lazuli

We all know lapis lazuli because of it's intense blue color.  The intensity of color is caused by the excitation of one electron into another orbital. Hardness is 5 to 5.5.  Ancient Egyptians used it for jewelry. It was referenced in the Old Testament as "sapphire" and was probably the 5th stone making up the breastplate of the high priest. In the Middle Ages painters crushed it into a powder called ultramarine and used it as a dye.  In the Renaissance, painters used ultramarine for pigment.  Most lapis lazuli today comes from regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan but is also mined in Russia, Chili, Italy, Mongolia, Canada, and the U.S.

Monday, January 02, 2017


It's hard to find things to photograph that aren't covered by snow or ice right now.   I'm taking a break from my usual pictures and doing something else on the weekdays for a month or so.  This year I'm taking pictures of rocks.  I like rocks.  I don't know much about rocks but I'm trying to learn.  Pinolith was discovered in 1873 and is mined only in Austria.  It is a metamorphic rock w/ white magnesite crystals in a grey dolomite and black graphite matrix.   It's name comes from the shape of the crystals that were thought to resemble pine tree seeds (actually I don't see it).  Hardness is 3.5 to 4.5 (This is using the Mohs hardness scale where talc is 1 and a diamond is 10).  There is a lot written about it's metaphysical properties but since I think it's all a bunch of hokum I'm not going to perpetuate that belief by repeating it.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Bald Eagle

Changed my calendars and made a new excel worksheet for 2017 (where I anally keep track of all sorts of things like the number of ticks I pick off me to what new flora or fauna I find that year on the land around here.)  I baked my first pizza of 2017 (Thank you again Dan & Connie) and toasted the New Year w/ a warm cup of glogg. I didn't have the 'Flower Drum Song' DVD on hand (it's coming through the library system) but I did have the series 'Terra Nova' on hand which seemed equally good New Year's entertainment and watched a couple of episodes.   Started a new project by spreading out a jigsaw puzzle I received for Christmas (Thank you again Steve & Rachel).  Didn't make any resolutions.  I might do that in February.  (Yeah, I know.  You're thinking Stop Procrastinating might be a good one.)